The jumping spiders are a rather charming bunch, one of the most numerous types of arachnid with about 5,000 species spanning the globe, though pour yourself a sherry and read on dear friend as they are far from common, and aren’t a bit like your run-of-the-mill eight-legged fiend.
These charming spiders don’t really fit in with their peers, of course this can only endear our band of bon vivants to our eight-legged chums… what with us being the scourge of the gentleman’s clubs of Soho… those clubs that would have us back anyway.
The jumpers are, put quite simply, not very spider like… instead of a terrifying lolloping blur of legs… beady little eyes… venomous gnashers… attributes that turn even the most ardent animal lover into a genocidal animapath… they are instead fluffy and doe-eyed and actually make you want to pick them up for a bit of a spidery snuggle.
This sadly would be quite impossible as they tend to be about 5mm long, though these wee spiders do try and make up for their unsnugglable tiny stature by behaving in a rather precious manner. If you presented your pinkie to another type of spider it would presumably either start skedaddling towards it drooling at its gaping maw… or simply scuttle back to Hades (or the back of the refrigeration unit, whichever is nearer). The jumping spider reacts quite differently, inquisitively wondering what the blazes the big pink sausage is… and go and have an investigate.
These spiders move not surprisingly in a jerky jumping manner. Amazingly they don’t move by muscles clunking their hard shelly body around, but in fact use hydraulic action. Like a mechanical digger they utilize fluid, blood in the case of our adorable arachnid, which they pump around their system. The fluid pushes to move limbs, rather than pulls like a muscle. This rather marvellous adaption allows them to jump really rather high, up to eighty times their own height, without having to rely on big bulky muscles like the grasshopper.
The jumping spiders also have incredible eyesight, it is ten times better than that of the dragonflies… patrons of by far the best peepers in the six-legged insect kingdom. The furry bounders use their remarkable vision to stalk their prey rather than putting up big and quite frankly frightful and unwelcoming webs everywhere. Though it did confuse learned types for some time as to exactly how something with such a tiny brain can use its eyes to hunt.
Predatory mammals such as cats and ourselves have evolved incredibly complex neural pathways to deal with the amount of information our eyes bring in. The information is sifted and sorted and we can make out what we need to make out, without going stark raving bonkers at the barrage of information we behold. The jumping spiders it turns out have evolved in a very different manner, they see a very small amount at a time. While they can see as clearly as a pigeon, they could only see a speck of something at a time, if they were presented with a pigeon they would not only be annoyed at your poor taste in presents but they quite simply wouldn’t be able to comprehend its magnitude… which is incidentally a philosophical argument as to why we cannot see Gods dilly dallying around the place, they are just too enormous for our tiny minds to compute… though whether pigeons are Gods to jumping spiders is anyone’s guess…
So that’s it, the rather delightful jumping spider. I’m sure you’ll agree that they aren’t a bit like those other ruffians, our fuzzy friend with big eyes rather than big fangs, inquisitive and bouncey rather than skulking and scampering. It has even been postulated by learned types that these charismatic inquisitive creatures shouldn’t really be called jumping spiders at all… and that perhaps a better moniker for these pouncing furballs would be ‘eight-legged cats’.